About That 70%

First thing out of the box, I want to thank Jamie for giving me the opportunity to temporarily blog here as my own site continues its “recovery” while passed out on the bathroom floor of the blogosphere. This is, if anything, the definitive chance for me to learn the proper spelling of my host’s first name.

I wanted to start not with rehashing all the developments and arguments of the recent ENDA debacle, but a quote I read this morning on the Daily Dish by Salon columnist Cass Sunstein. In the run-up to the 2008 primaries, I admit to sharing in Andrew Sullivan’s infatuation with Barack Obama. This is despite the fact Obama often places dead last for me in those online political quizzes that ask you questions of policy you’ve never discussed outside of an office Christmas party involving eight or nine mai tais. So why the appeal? Partially because of an attitude that Sunstein points out:

“[Obama] has an amazing line in the “Audacity of Hope” where he says, roughly, there are feminists in the United States who mourn their own abortions, and there are conservative women who have paid for their friends’ daughters’ abortions. And the reason I think this is so great is that it breaks down a sense that Americans come in two types.”

There is a temptation in American politics to stereotype, to believe in monolithic entities, to see groups of people as omni-representative of certain ideologies. On a national scale, this impulse has lead to the increasing polarization of American political thought. The schism of Right/Left Baby Boomer politics begun in the 1960s has had over four decades to overwhelm and ensnare political discourse. There is Right-Left, liberal-conservative, hawk-dove, gay-straight.

But this pigeonholing of people runs deeper than simply being applied to the “other”. We have begun condemning ourselves to the stereotype. We have made ourselves the other. When the ENDA debate is a distant memory, the one lingering question will and should be – How did the 360 gay rights organizations who constitute United ENDA veer so radically away from what an overwhelming majority of gay Americans supported?

Matt Foreman of the Task Force released the usual denunciation when ENDA passed the House this week. His statement reads in part:

“We are deeply disappointed that House leadership decided to ignore the position of a vast majority of LGBT organizations, ignore the legal assessment that this bill may not even provide adequate protections for gays, lesbians and bisexuals, and ignore the fact that this vote might make it more difficult to persuade members of Congress to support a fully inclusive bill in the future.”

What is missing here? I’ll tell you. The actual people this law affects. Mr. Foreman could not say the House leadership ignored the position of the vast majority of LGBT Americans. So he didn’t. He hopes no one will notice his organization and many others like it are currently being stripped of their self-assumed authority to speak for that 70%.

The Matt Foremans of the world are Gay. They are the stereotype, the uniform ideology, the label, the identity, the political monolith, the Voice of Authority. They believe they are the Deciders of the gay community.

You and I? We’re just gay. We’re conservatives, liberals, and centrists. We’re Christians, Atheists, and Muslims. We’re sports fanatics and celebrity obsessers. We’re bankers and janitors and teachers and politicians. We’re effeminate and masculine and everything in between. The overwhelming majority of gay Americans are not Gay. We’re not a stereotype, we’re not all of one mind, and we are currently not represented in any competent and accurate fashion by any national organization that believes it Represents us.

Like the right-wing, the Foremans are trying to make us Gay not only in our own eyes, but in the eyes of the rest of the country. They tell the rest of the world that we are all Gay. They send out press releases and hold events and attend gala dinners all with the aim of saying that we are uniform, a hive mind, a “diverse” collection of millions of human beings who share not only identical political goals, but identical policy goals and identical worldviews.

Families are not changed because they have a Gay son or daughter. They are changed by a gay son or daughter. The corporate environment does not evolve because a Gay activist dictates to them what must be done. Corporate environments evolve because millions of gay workers have made themselves known. One seventeen year-old coming out in a rural southern town of three hundred people is more powerful, courageous, and effective than a year’s worth of celebrity cocktail parties attended by the HRC board of directors.

The 70% have long allowed the gay establishment to paint us Gay. It never mattered. Now that it has become important, however, we have been told to sit down and shut up. We are labeled bigots, transphobic, outside of the gay mainstream, and traitors to the community by our own representatives.

The question before us is how do we take back what it means to be gay in this country? How do we generate gay leaders who see us not as a political monolith, a cash cow, a stepping stone to their own power and self-importance, but people who are incorporating their sexual orientation into their lives in a million different ways?

Where is the Barack Obama of the gay community? Where is the gay leadership that sees gay Americans not as blank human beings who strictly share their ideology, but an actual diverse group of individuals?

How do we fire the gay establishment when what they’re establishing has nothing more to do with us?

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9 thoughts on “About That 70%

  1. As if to further prove your point, the Triangle Foundation is opposing bathroom sex stings by calling them “profiling.”

    Excuse me? When you’re not condemning public bathroom sex, but rather condemning the police officers trying to make public bathrooms safe for children, you’re not doing “the cause” any help at all. Idiots.

  2. Is there really an epidemic of children being abused in public restrooms that I’m not aware of?

    It seems suspect to me that every call for expansion of government authority or the military-industrial complex is accompanied by hysteria of some “scary” threat that doesn’t really exist. This is what disturbs me about the Larry Craig scandal. To listen to the media spin… behind every restroom stall is a perverted old man ready to pounce on every unsuspecting young men who’s taking a piss.

    Yet, as far as I know (admittedly, very little), these activities are almost always clandestine. And “not-getting-caught” is considered some sort of cheap thrill for the people who engage in these activities. So, it’s not like they’re going to proposition just anyone who walks in the door.

    I think it’s disgusting and unsanitary, quite frankly. It’s also sufficiently disruptive to janitors and users (not the least of which because they’re making a mess) that I think a prohibition is reasonable. The folks who do this should be ashamed of themselves. But do I think we need to divert more valuable resources to combat this imagined threat to children? Nope.

  3. But do I think we need to divert more valuable resources to combat this imagined threat to children? Nope.

    John, I absolutely agree with you. But my thought–that I should have worded better–is that calling it “entrapment” is nothing but deleterious (sp?) to homos everywhere. It sure doesn’t help.

  4. In my opinion, Robbie, the way to start is to shake ourselves of the notion that we NEED some sort of collective entity or leadership for “gay”.

    The reason why is what you correctly outlined: “people who are incorporating their sexual orientation into their lives in a million different ways”. Imposing a conformity structure onto that is what has gotten us into the mess in which we find ourselves; a small ideological cabal demanding fanatical adherence to beliefs unrelated to homosexuality itself and exploiting most gay peoples’ need for acceptance and fear of ostracism to enforce that adherence.

    Like with the Borg, the best way to defeat them is to introduce and reinforce individuality within the hive.

  5. Except that the so-called “individuals” fighting the Borg are deeply rooted in other structures themselves. It’s not as obvious with them because it’s subtlely embedded into military tradition, shared values, and Federation (read: American – as the UFP is supposed to be a galactic version of the USA) “patriotism.”

    In many ways, the humans are as conformist as the robots. They just insist on deceiving themselves into thinking otherwise. Isn’t it odd that people who claim to be “independent” are rarely ever truly so? Or that liberated “individuals” are often the first to quote the rulebook in a crisis?

    There’s a little Borg in everyone, and it’s not necessarily bad either. If it wasn’t for conformity, you think commuters would brave rush hour traffic to get to work on-time?

  6. I was thinking, John, along the lines of what was portrayed in the TNG episodes “I, Borg” and “Descent”.

    Moreover, your invoking of “military tradition, shared values, and Federation patriotism” as conformist misses one major point; everyone interprets these slightly differently, and they are free to do so — hence Starfleet’s ability, and the Federation’s ability, to include innumerable different races, cultures, religions, and whatnot while following general principles.

    In contrast, there is no such thing as diversity among the Borg; the only way in which a Borg can demonstrate any individual variance is to be separated from the hive mind. In a similar fashion, there is no diversity tolerated in viewpoints by the Gay establishment; it is expected that all will submit to their will and keep writing checks to them, under penalty of being called “bigots, transphobic, outside of the gay mainstream, and traitors to the community”.

  7. I figured I might find Robbie here. 🙂

    The ultimate fate of The Malcontent is playing out as we speak. It is a classic good-news, bad-news scenario.

    For now, the site is propagating on new servers, as I leave Dreamhost–or, as I called them in the last email I sent them, “NightmareHost”–in the dust. (File that under “good news.)

    I will post about all of the gory details soon.

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